From dirt to decoration – Graffiti as ornament
posted by Department of Sociology for HKU and Public
Event Type: Public Lecture/Forum/Seminar/Workshop/Conference/Symposium
Event Nature: Culture and Arts
Often appreciated as mere dirt or pollution, this paper will reconceptualize graffiti as a variety of classical ornamental practice. Arguing that it is both inherently adjunctive and decorative, an accessory to a primary surface and a form of embellishment on an ancillary plane, graffiti will be seen to not only follow the key attributes of traditional ornamentation, but so too the associated debates and disputes that ornament has been subjected to in the architectural record.
Rather than graffiti’s traditional illegality or basic decorative status being the causal factor generating the fear these images so often arouse then, it will be argued that it is its very material essence that provokes much of the charge it contains, the ability of ornament to act as the fetish that both enlivens and destablizes the space in which it inhabits.
Dr Rafael Schacter is an anthropologist and curator from London, presently British Academy Postdoctoral Fellow in the Anthropology Department at University College London.
Rafael is currently exploring contemporary art practices in Manila, the Philippines. He has recently undertaken seven months of fieldwork in the region and is working on numerous written outputs as well as an exhibition scheduled for 2019 in London. Rafael has also been undertaking research on graffiti and street-art for over ten years. He has worked on numerous exhibitions including co-curating Street Art at the Tate Modern in 2008 as well as curating Venturing Beyond at Somerset House in London and Crossing Borders / Crossing Boundaries at the Street Art Museum St Petersburg, both in 2016.
Rafael has authored numerous articles as well as two books, The World Atlas of Street Art and Graffiti (2013) published with Yale University Press, and Ornament and Order: Graffiti, Street Art and the Parergon (2014) published with Ashgate. He is currently completing a manuscript for Lund Humphries entitled Street to Studio, slated for Summer 2018.
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